Saratoga Springs

Spartans’ 16th straight volleyball title has a little extra meaning

Shenendehowa wins 4-setter against Ballston Spa for AA title
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Lindsey DeBonis makes a dig alongside Sophia Pawlusik on Saturday.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Lindsey DeBonis makes a dig alongside Sophia Pawlusik on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the past 16 years, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has reigned supreme over Section II girls’ volleyball. But for head coach Gary Bynon, Saturday’s Class A title win over South Glens Falls meant a little bit more than the previous 15.

“What me and my family have been through,” Bynon said, “my wife and I have both lost our fathers in the last 35 days. But this team, this coaching staff, and this entire program have been there for us, and, because of that, I’m so happy they got to enjoy this championship.”

“He just loved to watch me coach,” Bynon said of his father. “It’s been a long haul, but these kids have been here for me.”

The Spartans won their 16th consecutive sectional title with a 25-14, 25-19, 25-14 victory over South Glens Falls, breaking the record for consecutive sectional titles by one school, previously held by Lake George (1989-2003).

“To be mentioned with Cathy Stanilka from Lake George is such an honor,” Bynon said. “It’s 16 teams that worked really hard. Every team had their championship. This team has worked really hard and come a long way just in the last month.”

Bynon broke Stanilka’s all-time Section II girls’ volleyball wins record of 673 earlier in the season.

Bulldogs’ head coach Alicia Collier knew of the Spartans’ prowess, but her team was not intimidated coming in.

“I definitely thought all along that we had a chance to play with them,” Collier said. “But the environment of sectional finals, there was a lot of jitters and the girls definitely struggled with serve receive and struggled with passing, and that really made a difference. We didn’t play like we are capable of.”

The Bulldogs hung tight with the Spartans in each of the first two sets, but each time Burnt Hills executed late runs, 12-4 in the first set and 10-2 in the second, to close out wins.

“We had some big contributions from people at big times off the bench,” Bynon said. “That’s a match-changer when Jess Langan comes in [in the second set], serves four in a row. We go [from down] 17-15 to [up] 19-17, it got us some momentum back again.”

“One big point gets everybody to come together, makes everyone work harder so we can get more points in a row,” sophomore Hannah Shell said. “Scoring in a bunches is a big theme Coach emphasizes.”

Langan recorded three service aces. Shell finished with 14 kills and nine digs. Lindsey DeBonis had a team-high 16 digs.

The win advances the Spartans to the first round of the state playoffs. They will next compete on Wednesday at Broadalbin-Perth.
“We’re just gonna keep working,” Shell said. “Take it one game at a time, one play at a time, one practice at a time, and just see where the season takes us.”

“I know for 16 girls and myself, and our coaching staff, we just win one at a time,” Bynon said. “You don’t get to where we are by looking ahead.”


Shenendehowa extended a sectional title streak of its own, claiming its eighth straight with a win in the Class AA final over Ballston Spa 25-14, 25-17, 22-25, 25-15.

“This is always a great feeling, being able to get past this point and being able to compete for the Regional title,” head coach Lori Kessler said. “I think the sustained success has been from a lot of the girls just being dedicated year-round, playing together and playing as a team.”

The Plainsmen controlled play from the get-go, and won the first two sets comfortably before Ballston Spa rallied for a third-set victory.

“We eliminated our mistakes that we were making in the first two sets,” Ballston Spa head coach Heather LaSalvia said of her team’s play in the third set. “We made a lot of errors and gave away too many points. Lack of communication really hurt us in the first two sets. In that third set we just clicked. The communication was there; we eliminated those errors, and that helped in a big way.”

With momentum teetering, the Plainsmen huddled around their coach before the fourth set began.
“I told them that we just needed to focus and get the job done and work together out there,” Kessler said.
“She told us it was just the result of us not playing as a team,” senior Hannah Feit said. “They played great but it was our mistakes too that let us down. We got in our heads and got frustrated. It’s when we pick each other up and come together that we play well and play how we should.”

Feit recorded 34 assists and 13 service points in the win. Senior Charlotte Macken added 23 digs.

After the match, Shenendehowa senior Nicole Adams, who finished with 14 kills and three blocks, was honored as Most Valuable Player in the Suburban Council this season.

“From the minute I made varsity my sophomore year, she’s brought our team together,” Feit said. “Not only is she amazing at volleyball, but she has energy, she’s positive, she brings everyone up.”

Shenendehowa moves on to the regional final next Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse.

“Regionals is always a tough battle,” Kessler said. “We’ve seen the same team now for the last couple of years and it’s always a battle. We hope to be able to make it past and compete for states the following the weekend. We think we can do it.”

“This year we really wanna go all the way,” Feit said.


In the Class C final, Voorheesville pulled off an improbable 23-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-23 come-from-behind victory over Lake George. Emily Babin recorded five aces 24 kills for the Blackbirds. Katy Babin added 33 assists.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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